compare and contrast: mrsa and climate

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Most readers are familiar with the danger of antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA. Anyone who works in a hospital or has visited one on a regular basis lately knows about the stringent measures being to taken to try to keep this under control.

A recent study, the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, was commissioned by UK Prime Minister David Cameron last summer. The review predicted 10 million global deaths per year by 2050 due to antimicrobial-resistant pathogens. That figure assumes that no successful methods or drugs are found to slow it down. It’s a conservative estimate.

An added misfortune is all the people who would have to give up cancer care, surgeries, and so on, because of the danger of infection with “superbugs.” Current estimates are 700,000 deaths per year attributed to resistant bacteria. Here are some references about the problem and attempts to stop it:

http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/national-strategy/

http://www.fic.nih.gov/News/GlobalHealthMatters/july-august-2014/Pages/antimicrobial-resistance.aspx

http://www.who.int/drugresistance/documents/surveillancereport/en/

Just about everyone agrees that this must be dealt with for the sake of the next generation, not to mention for the rest our own lives.  I’m sure there are disagreements among policymakers and scientists about how to go about this effort and how to fund it.

As far as I know, however, there is not a vocal and well-funded group trying to say that the threat doesn’t exist, that the scientists involved are just trying to get research funding, and that all the science is dead wrong.

That particular set of absurdities is reserved for global warming. There is no scientific debate about the reality of global warming; no more than the question of resistant bacteria. For climate change, everyone sees it happening; oceanographers, botanists, wildlife biologists, climate and atmospheric researchers, and more. Every relevant field of inquiry converges on the same result. The exceptions are certain business interests and political ideologues.

But hold on. Maybe one day the fight against antibiotic resistance will require some sort of government regulation. Maybe some businesses will be threatened by a solution. Then the “facts” will come out. A small number of scientists, most of them not even in medicine, will be found who claim that it’s not happening. Resistance to antibiotics is all an overblown grab for government money, they’ll say. Suddenly the question of whether the problem even exists becomes a political issue. Funding slows down; tied up by anti-regulation fever. Our children pay the price. That wouldn’t surprise me at all.

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